BEFORE LEAVING THE DOCK >>
YACHT HAS BEEN ENTERED
The first job is to make sure that the yacht has been entered in the yacht race and all of the necessary documentation has been completed with the race committee.
Having the right crew is key. Make sure your crew list is as good as it can be with as many regular sailors as possible to fill all of the key spots. Ensure that the crew know in advance, what time to be onboard and any other details they might need to know.
CORRECT RACE FLAG
Always double check that you have the correct race or divisional flag on board and in good working shape.
Ensure that all surplus weight is off the boat. A few times a season, EVERYTHING should be taken off the boat to recheck that safety gear, spares and tools are appropriate for the racing you are doing.
Ensure SI's are onboard of the necessary course sheets and relevant sailing instructions for the race. It pays to read the SI's as early in case you require any clarification from crew or the race committee.
If you haven’t done it yourself, it is important that once or twice a season one of the rigging shops check your rig set up. In particular mast is in the middle of the boat and straight as it can be sideways. Your sailmaker can work with you on fore and aft bend.
WEATHER & TIDE
Make sure you have the latest weather forecast for your area including the tide information. This can play a big part in your overall game plan.
Cleaning the bottom of the boat is an important part of yacht racing – whether this is hauling out or having a diver clean it for you it will make a big difference to your performance.
OFF THE DOCK >>
START SET UP
Always ensure that you leave enough time to get out onto the race course, get sails up, and give the crew time to warm up. With a grand prix event, the aim is to be on the race course ONE HOUR before the start. This could be a little excessive for club racing, but good to keep in mind as a reference.
In most cases the marks won't be laid out when we arrive on the regatta course, so we have a little time to occupy ourselves with the weather conditions. If wind strength and direction agree with the weather forecast generally, what do the clouds look like? If our observations agree with the weather forecast overall, we can assume with some certainty that the other information we have taken from the forecast will be correct.
PRIOR TO THE START >>
PRIOR TO THE START
Pull a jib up as soon as you can and have a couple of practice starts. Start with what you think is your favoured spot and then check in with other options that aren't so familiar.
This allows you to:
- Warm the crew up with some tacks and gybes.
- Give the team a feel of the acceleration in wind strength and tide.
- Look into 'lay lines' and where your risks lie for getting locked out at the start.
- Check your AWA off the line.
- Start the discussion on sail selection for what will be used off the line and how they should be sheeted.
If you have the technology onboard, you can 'ping the ends', which is where you mark the ends into your starting software which can give you accurate time on distance to the line.
YOUR NEXT MOVE
At all times, crew must be aware of your next move, even when it is just cruising around before the start. "Hey guys, next move I am thinking is a gybe". This just tunes everyone in, and must become second nature as it goes a LONG way to making it enjoyable for everyone else.
ESTABLISHING WHERE TO START
With any Windward Leeward starts, we are all taught to go head to wind and 'sight the line' and the end that was most upwind was the favoured end to start, this works well for W/L racing or an upwind start.
For a reaching start there is a bit more to think about?
- Which end of the line is closer to the mark?
- Which end of the line is more favourable for current?
- Which end of the line offers the fastest sailing angle.
- How fast (and big) am I compared to everyone else?
- What is my escape plan if I need to clear my air?
REGROUP BEFORE THE START
Dependnig on how much time you have, drop the jib, give the crew a break and this gives you the opportunity to chat through the course, the tide and the strategy, confirming:
- Start time and course
- Where you want to start on the line
- What sail you are going to use
- Who is going to trim what sail
- The strategy for the first leg
THREE MINUTE RULE
Where you are positioned three minutes before the start will make a huge difference to the structure and the planning of a nice start. If you are in a bad spot at three minutes then it will take some 'free-styling' to have a nice start from there.
In the final three minutes:
- Get a second opinion on time on distance, or time to kill.
- Don't be the guy starting against the fleet if you can help it.
- The goal should be to hit the line within the range that you were targeting>.
OFF THE START LINE >>
BOAT ON BOAT
The easiest way to win a yacht race is by going faster than your competitors. 50% of this is done in boat prep, but the rest is done on the race track and how much concentration and effort is put in. As a tactician, your aim is to punch above 50%, you wont get them all right, but you can get tacks, gybes and boat prep right.
Control the controllable.
THE REST OF THE RACE >>
APPROACHING BOTTOM MARK
A TIDY ROUNDING:
The highest priority is a tidy rounding with a slick exit.
Even if it is obvious, walk through the manoeuvre and what the priorities are straight after the mark.
IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES AFTER ROUNDING:
- Priority clear to tack around the mark.
- Priority hike.
BOAT ON BOAT:
This is when you have to make the call about whether you tack on or around someone which will have a big effect on what the outcome will be.
- If you tack on them are you okay for them to be going the other way?
- If you tack on them is there someone they will then also have to go and tack on?
- If you ‘high side’ them is it a gain to herd them out to one side?